SF Homeless Survey 2015: Previous Place of Residence

As a plugged-in reader points out, the vast majority (71 percent) of the nearly 7,000 homeless now living on the streets or in the shelters of San Francisco once had a permanent residence in the city.

Nearly half (49 percent) those who once had a permanent residence in the city had maintained it for at least ten years.

And of the minority of homeless who have migrated here from other parts of the state or country (29 percent), a greater percentage of those have done so in search of work (25 percent) than to partake in the so-called liberal social services the City provides (22 percent).

SF Homeless Survey 2015: Migration

While the reason for one becoming homeless is typically the result of multiple and compounding causes, a quarter (25 percent) of those surveyed in early 2015 reported job loss as the primary cause, followed by substance abuse (18 percent). This category certainly does not include the purchase of generic Viagra without a prescription. Having been evicted (13 percent) was the third highest reported cause of becoming homeless, a primary cause which had tripled since 2011.

SF Homeless Survey 2015: Cause of homelessness

The greatest reported barrier of being able to secure permanent housing is being able to afford rent, followed by simply securing a job, with only eight percent of those surveyed reporting that permanent housing isn’t something they sought.

SF Homeless Survey 2015: Barrier to obtaining a permanent residence

The primary reported obstacle to securing employment in order to be able to afford a permanent residence and rent in San Francisco? The catch-22 lack of a permanent address.

SF Homeless Survey 2015: Barriers to obtaining employment

And for the first time in the history of ASR’s bi-annual Homeless Survey, Age and Disability are top five obstacles as well.

116 thoughts on “San Francisco’s Homeless Crisis is Homegrown and a Catch-22”
  1. Goes against conventional wisdom including what I thought to be true about who the homeless where here. Thanks for the post

    1. I suspect it also goes against integrity. Which is a common trait within the Homeless Industrial Complex. Someone should do a deep study on the increased odds of advantage-taking proportional to the helpless/mercurial quotient of “clients” in service agencies. I.E. look at Probation Officers, Child Welfare, Homeless Inc. etc. versus things like Medicare where a healthy proportion of clients are engaged and speaking up if there are issues with the service providers — or, as is likely in this case, the data.

  2. Not to sound like an elitist pig, but how are moving costs a barrier for someone with no home who (I assume) carries all of their belongings with them?

    1. You aren’t a pig, but you haven’t thought about the costs of moving into an apartment.

      First + Last + Security Deposit is more than many people can afford, even if they could conceivably afford monthly rent.

        1. Yes, if you cannot save a first/last, this means you are living from paycheck to paycheck with no margin for error.

          1. and I think, more broadly speaking, that is one of the major issues with our society and economy in general. An error or two, and you are screwed, with little ability to climb back up. No strong extended family networks. Hyper expensive rents where there are good jobs. Endless databases that catalog all of your sins and crimes.

  3. If I were a drug addict and a bum, I’m not sure I’d be willing to openly admit that I lost my job or my home because of substance abuse. Likewise if I moved to San Francisco for the homeless benefits, I probably wouldn’t be willing to admit that to a state surveyor who has the potential to deny me those benefits. I have a hard time accepting these results without knowing more about the context and methods of collection.

    1. Agreed. No one would admit to some government/non-profit employee that they came from elsewhere.

      Or, it could be that so many street people have cycled in and out of shelters/supportive housing in SF that they show up in the surveys as “lost most recent home in San Francisco”

      1. No one would admit to some government/non-profit employee that they came from elsewhere.

        A bias which would be much harder to dismiss if 29 percent of those surveyed didn’t do exactly what you state no one would do.

        1. I’m sure some see it as a Sign of Shame; others see it as bragging rights.

          Exit polls deal with this type of perception-bias a lot: “did you vote for the Black candidate or the white candidate?” (vs the outcomes that don’t match the polling).

          The bias will be against those from outside. Questions like this need follow-up, such as “What neighborhood were you in? House? Apt? Room? To try to determine the level of veracity of response.

    2. Agreed – need to know a lot more about this survey. And some of the categories in the first table are suspect (or, to phrase it more neutrally, “ambiguous”) – e.g., “was travelling/visiting and remained here” – well, OK, but remained here *why*? If it was because they got a job and apartment, but then lost them, then those people should count towards a different category; if it was because they hung out on Haight Street and liked the vibe and decided to camp in Golden Gate Park permanently, then IMHO that flirts awfully closely with “to access homeless services and/or other benefits”, given that our programs and approach to homeless make it easier for someone to do that than would otherwise be the case.

      And even taking the study at 100% face value, setting aside these criticisms – it means that *at least* 6.45% of the city’s homeless came here because of homeless programs (25% of the 19% from within CA, and 17% of the 10% from the rest of the U.S.).

    3. A direct link to the entire report, which includes all methodologies, is provided in our last paragraph above.

      And yes, the survey is far from perfect. But if you’re arguing against the findings absent other data, you’re more likely rationalizing a prejudice versus honing in on the facts.

      1. Whoa, really? I have lived here for over 30 years and voted for David Campos, Tom Ammiano, Art Agnos… the people who know this town and its machinations best are very, very skeptical of the “homeless” situation precisely because we actually engage here at every level and observe closely and give a **** — and have given a **** for a very long time. Like since the 1970’s. So don’t be getting on a high horse if you don’t know what a usable saddle looks like.

        1. Im with you – Ive been here since ’89 and after 27 years of hearing every new mayor or supervisor telling us how they are going to solve the homeless problem it’s easy to be skeptical and cynical.

          We throw enough money at the problem, it’s how that money is being managed that’s the issue.

    4. The *homeless benefits* are things like the presence of mental health services, shelters, and soup kitchens, which are usually absent in small towns in CA counties like Amador and Modoc, for example.

      Why wouldn’t you admit you’d travel to a place where you can access basic needs as opposed to die in the elements elsewhere?

    5. right?? how useful is a self-reporting survey like this? people lose jobs all the time. SF has one of the highest employment rates in the nation! so why do they have one of the highest homeless rates? you’d think with all the people with jobs there wouldn’t be a lot of homeless. it runs counter to that.

      1. The skill level of the employed and the jobs available (at least jobs that pay enough to afford a $3,000 per month apartment) and the skills of the unemployed are not very well matched.

        If you are a member of the left behind working class-or a youth who never was able to launch, positing that there are plenty of system analyst jobs in tech firms is not very helpful

  4. This is clearly unexpected, and goes contrary to the common belief that SF homeless originate elsewhere, and have traveled here to take advantage of our abundance of non-profit and government services.

  5. So, what this is telling me is that San Francisco could have 1,540 (22% * 7,000) less homeless people if it wasn’t so liberal on the social services it provides for its homeless. Great.

  6. I read the methodology section of the report and it does raise some questions about the results. It’s just a one point in time survey. I wonder if the results would be different if it took place at a different time of year- say in better weather. The survey also notes they over sampled people in transitional housing. If they could repeat the survey more often the results would be more reliable. The report acknowledges that it almost certainly under counts the homeless population. It seems like it would also under count those with mental health or substance abuse problems just by virtue of them being less likely to be among those 1000 to answer the survey- though they do get $5 for participating. All that said, even having around one in three homeless people from somewhere else to me is indicative they are drawn here for the services.

    1. I read it too, and the methodology is a joke. Relying on self-assessment from a group that has a very substantial portion of untreated mental illness is virtually guaranteed to give you bad results. Add to that the many that have lower-than-average IQ and the ones that are likely to simply lie, and the inaccuracies are simply ridiculous.

      So whether or not that assessment is consistent with your world view, it is pure fantasy.

  7. I have some quibbles with the methodology. And therefore, my preconceived notions must be true even if there is no evidence to support them. Q.E.D.

  8. the methodology is open to more than “quibbles.” they interviewed only 1000 out of 7000 (likely many more, actually) and did so with “peer to peer” interviews by trained volunteers who paid the respondents. No one is climbing through the woods of GG park to conduct interviews or buttonholing the crazies in U.N. Plaza. And 1/3 of the homeless being from somewhere else is a big deal- the city would be much better off with 1/3 fewer homeless people.

      1. Only if that 1,000 is representative of the 7,000 – @mission was positing otherwise.

        Of course I admit that my impressions of the homeless may be colored by having been physically assaulted by them on numerous occasions (once requiring a trip to the emergency room), being verbally assaulted (“homo”, “fag”, etc.) at least weekly, and stepping over human excrement on an almost daily basis downtown. That will tend to affect one’s view of the situation.

      2. I believe you’re thinking of a random sample methodology, which this was not (“…it is not a random sample methodology.”, p. 81). Additionally, it used a peer interviewing methodology (think about why exit polling is not done by having Trump supporters interviewing Trump voters).

        1. the person who put this together was no statistician. I can guarantee you that. this is not proper random sampling. random sampling assumes you ahve access to all 7000 and randomly (through an algorithm) 1000 are chosen. this sampling has less bias and is most likely yo eb represeentative. when you can only sample the people who will talk to you, sample is very biased. he used a statistical methos that doesnt apply to the sampling methodology

          1. moto, confidence intervals and levels are not exclusive to randomly sampled populations. They can apply to non-random selection as well. A statistician would know that.

    1. Yes, we are just talking about quibbles given the large sample size. Also, do you think that – perhaps – some homeless people might also leave SF and move on to different locales? It may be that SF has a net influx of homeless, or it may be that there is a new outflow. It may be the case that the homeless come here from elsewhere for the services (looks like around 6% fit that description). Equally plausible is that the homeless leave SF in significant numbers because it is so expensive here and maybe, just maybe, they will be able to afford housing in a less expensive town. I’ve never seen anything to validate either hypothesis. So on that point, we are all just speculating.

    2. You know, there are probably homeless people elsewhere who were once residents of San Francisco. Should we have a program to repatriate them, too?

  9. Your characterization of the homeless as “crazies”, mission, exemplifies much about their plight. Not to mention its complete lack of empathy – an unwillingness to consider them San Franciscans.

    1. Then travel over to 16th and Mission and see for yourself: it’s a complete, filthy zoo full of drugged out crazy people.

      1. Hardly accurate. A crossroads of many, many people going about their business with a small minority of “otherwise.”

        1. Yes, and those “otherwise”, despite their relatively small numbers, render the public space an unusable cesspit.

    2. I recently moved out of SF primarily because I’ve had it with the homeless situation and the city’s failure to address it. I question whether you live in the city because, if you did, you would understand.

  10. When you penalize landlords for altruistic behavior, you encourage them to act selfishly. SF got exactly what it asked for – a house divided.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out. Confidence intervals can also be influenced by things like the expected variability of the thing being tested. But to be fair to SS, 1/7 is a pretty good sample in anyone’s book. I’m too lazy to have read the methodology, but I’m assuming they weighted the responses according to expected % breakdowns of the homeless population in classes like mentally ill, families, etc…

  11. It would be useful to compare similar surveys from other cities to get a baseline for what is “normal” in terms of the reasons for homelessness and the origins of homeless people.

  12. So according to this study we’re to believe that folks who lost their jobs and couldn’t afford the rent decided to move into a tent on the street instead of moving to a less expensive city? I could be wrong but it appears that the black tar heroin problem is the real culprit here and drug addiction is higher than 18% of the problem…

    1. drug addiction is a problem in 80% of these people and mental illness in 80% as well (not necessarily same 80). there are probably <1% of homeless here that do not suffer from one of the above. the best solution is a mandatory 6 months institutionalization to get them on psych meds, in therapy, off drugs and alcohol and fully devoted to AA/NA, etc. If after 6 months of inhouse treatment, they go back , then we need to arrest them and keep them off the streets. if these people dont get treated, this problem will never go away

      1. I wholeheartedly agree that it is not a “civil liberties” issue but I think a little less heavy-handed approach is possible and likely more efficacious. The greatest impediment will always remain the commitment to pay for it.

      2. Are you referring to chronically homeless on the street or all homeless people? Many are in temporary housing, in cars, on people couches etc depending on the day

        Really what I’m saying is stop making numbers up

      3. Please substantiate those claims (80%, 80%, <1%) with some sort of data that you didn't pull out of the air. Then maybe we can consider the rest of your suggestions.

  13. To all of you who have “quibbles” because the survey doesn’t appear to match your beliefs/expectations. Have you ever considered that the “visibly homeless” that you are referring to, e.g. the “filthy zoo of drugged out homeless people” may not represent the majority of the homeless population? There are a lot of homeless people living in their cars out in quieter neighborhoods, or in camps in out of the way bushes, under the 101, etc. These homeless people are not visible to you, yet may account for many of the responses in this survey.

    1. Past polling has been done by people experienced with the situation; know where folks are likely to be camped. You’re always going to miss a few, but I respect that they probably got the majority. Now whether the responses represent that majority; or are just the ones lucid and willing enuf to engage is another matter.

      1. This survey is part of the official 2015 point-in-time San Francisco count. This is the one and only professionally conducted homeless count for 2015. I believe it to be highly accurate, and about the ONLY reliable source of statistics on San Francisco’s homeless population.

    2. There’s actually an important point buried in your comment, one that I thought of last night but didn’t have a chance to post – there’s a terminology issue underlying this debate. When I hear “homeless”, I don’t think of people housed in transitional or temporary housing – I think of filthy people ranting on the street corner.

      I’m happy to admit that maybe my interpretation of “homeless” in that instance is incorrect – but in turn, the homeless support community needs to recognize that it is those filthy public people who are the image of homelessness, and cause the sort of reactions seen in these comments. I doubt that anyone would quibble with the city providing transitional housing for someone who’s making an effort and is off drugs (or making a legitimate effort to stay off drugs). But I think that when most people hear “homeless”, they don’t think of those people, they think of the people who are crapping on the streets and stinking up Muni busses.

      1. I’m not so familiar with the homeless services in SF, but in San Mateo I knew someone who worked high up in Shelter Networks. A large number of their clients had medical debt or were laid off. They lived in cars or on couches and were counted as homeless. They were often working class, but not the type of people who ever expected to be on the street. For these people, homeless services work fairly well and the time spent in an institution is used for job training and resume writing and job assistance. I don’t know the numbers, but this is a large proportion of the homeless in the bay area.

        The visible homeless do tend to be the ones with drug problems or mental illness or the people who are lifestyle homeless. But I don’t think they are the majority.

        The problem is that we use the same word to describe very different problems. The majority of homeless people just need a few months of respite to get their lives back together. The rest are people with problems that would cost a fortune to fix, even if they came from a home – and that’s if they could be fixed. Helping the former is an easy thing to do. It’s the latter that has all kinds of moral conundrums.

        1. Maybe “Struggling Working Class” versus “Ferals”. I hate to be harsh, but for the lifestyle homeless and the deranged, homelessness alone is not the problem.

          But, there have been some cities mentioned here which have provided housing first as the policy response.

          1. My taxes in this city are already nuts. So let’s provide dormitory (solo rooms, shared bathroom, kitchen, etc) style housing for everyone – it’s nearly impossible for anyone to improve their life without an address and some support. But if I’m paying for it, I want the city to get Singaporean on antisocial public behavior. The small increase in my taxes would be nothing compared to the the quality of life improvement of implementing a giant carrot and giant stick policy.

  14. Less than 40% of SF residents were born in California and more than 35% were born outside the USA. And it’s not just SF or a recent phenom. In the 9 county Bay Area, half of all the population growth over the past ~50 years is from foreign born immigrants. Sorry to dispel any fondly held nativist illusions, but most of us here came from somewhere else.

  15. Of course, great city, great weather AND best selling point is BOS, Mayor, Police allow pooping, peeing, and panhandling on streets and sidewalks, anytime, anyday!!! Come on everyone, from anywhere, come here!!!

    1. Just like the City attracts Godless sinning sexual deviants who cannot make it in Real America?

      If you are eagerly throwing perjoratives around (and mea culpa I do it too!) look in the mirror as well and consider how an Iowan Cruz voter would feel about a “sassySFboy”

  16. What a coincidence that I just gave cash to a homeless person for the first time in many years. It’s easy to become jaded to these folks, especially considering how some homeless people do a fine job of destroying the environment around them with litter, coarse insults and feces. They’re not all horrible junkies. If you have the time, get to know one or two and if you find a kinship, help that person out. Just at thought. My own mother was homeless for a while. She’s not a junkie, just mentally ill and incapable of making sound decisions on her own.

  17. Is there some unspoken policy at the SFPD to keep the Marina and Presidio Heights Homeless free? I am curious about this because of how seldom I ever see a homeless person in the Marina or up in Presidio Heights.

  18. Maybe I’m just ignorant, but if I get evicted or lose my job, I would just move OUT of the city if I can no longer afford to live here and move where I CAN afford the rent rather than live on the streets??? Yes, I saw “The Pursuit Of Happyness” and know how some homelessness happens.

    1. As would I (assuming I could not get another job here).

      But consider if you: (a) have had an iffy housing situation for years (evictions, staying with friends until they tire of you, a rental, repeat), (b) you don’t have anything close to first/last/deposit, (c) your entire circle of friends/family is here, (d) you have no car, (e) you have mental illness and/or drug/drinking problems, (f) you have no real education. You get evicted and/or lose your job under those circumstances, and you just end up on the street – maybe for a little while, and maybe longer. This is not an uncommon scenario at all. Good article in the recent New Yorker (see namelink)

    2. …because you’d be able to afford the rent elsewhere? And, of course, utilities, and car expenses, etc., etc.?

      Elsewhere is not some wonderland where it’s super cheap to live. Those $1 houses in Detroit? They cost $1 because once you buy them you’re on the hook for tens of thousands to fix their major problems, to pay back taxes, to clear liens, to reestablish utility services– those are not optional costs.

  19. For some reason, I just don’t trust these figures especially after reading an article by another blog recently in which the author interviewed several of the campers on Division St, it seem the majority just got here a few months ago to set up camp. It should be worth noting that the City does an incredibly poor job collecting data on homeless as pointed out by a recent surprisingly scathing article in our major newspaper regarding the staggering amount of funding the many uncoordinated homeless groups receive.

    1. So just to be clear, you don’t trust the results of a comprehensive city-wide survey, and the basis of your mistrust is a report based on an interview with a few of those who are inhabiting a relatively new encampment along one couple-block stretch of the city?

      1. Well, there are plenty of statistically related reasons to not trust this survey. (That it is not random is a huge, huge red flag. Consider if you did a survey of the roughly 1/7 of San Francisco’s population that lives in the Sunset/Richmond. Would you trust those numbers to be an accurate picture of the city? I hope not)

        1. Instead of arguing from an obviously false analogy, why not actually critique their method, maybe improve on their estimates of confidence. Since you believe you have plenty of reasons to not trust, why not verify. Else, this would be the best estimate available to guide policy.

          FWIW, we routinely make policy decisions based on stats derived from lesser methods. Look at the SF bike counts, the huge holes in the SFMTA and Caltrans traffic counts, and the inadequate traffic simulations used to justify major road changes and BRTs and subways, ….

          BTW, if any stat weenies really want to get into this, you can read the HUD Point-in-Time Count Methodology Guide.

          1. Sorry, why is it an obviously false analogy?

            I do agree that we routinely make policy decisions based on meaningless statistics. That doesn’t mean we should make another one.


          2. Your analogy is nothing like what they did. They did not gather all their data from one geographic partition and then extrapolate or project that across the rest of the geography. What they did involved many different samplings and sources, is quite thoughtful, adapted for cost and safety, and based on many years of practical experience coping with a difficult population to find, let alone query. If you disagree with any of it or challenge the accuracy, at least do it based on what they did and not some artless caricature.

            I do not think the various transportation stats I mentioned above are “meaningless”, though they are not as thorough as I would like.

            We have to make policies based on the info we have, and unless you got better, this is by far and away the best data on this topic.

          3. A survey or poll that is not statistically rigorous is meaningless. The analogy was with the west side. It would be similarly meaningless to poll all people over six feet tall and extrapolate the outcome to all of SF.

            We absolutely do not have to make policy based on meaningless information. We could, at least in theory, make policy based on valid statistics. (Granted, that would require a Supervisor or a Mayor with a working knowledge of mathematics. I’m unaware of a single such elected official in our government.)

          4. That is another false analogy. And the survey isn’t meaningless because you don’t think it is perfect. Decisions need to be made on the best available information, this sounds like it’s the best we’ve got and is actually pretty good.

          5. Right there, that’s my point. Decisions do need to be made. But we do NOT have to act on inaccurate informative. If we’re spending $200M/year on homelessness, we could and should run rigorous surveys. (But we won’t; I’m well aware that we won’t)

        2. From the report:

          “Surveys were administered to a randomized sample of homeless individuals between February 1 and February 19, 2015. This effort resulted in 1,027 complete and unique surveys. Based on the Point-in-Time Count of 7,539 homeless persons, with a randomized survey sampling process, these 1,027 valid surveys represent a confidence interval of +/- 3% with a 95% confidence level when generalizing the results of the survey to the estimated population of homeless individuals in San Francisco. In other words, if the survey were conducted again, we can be confident that the results would be within three percentage points (3%) of the current results for countywide data.”

          I am not a statistician, although I work with them a lot and am fairly familiar with the relevant concepts. This certainly appears to be a reliable sampling size and methodology. At any rate, it is certainly more reliable than one individual’s hunches or observations.

      2. Hi Socketsite, I would suppose you posted this study b/c it intends to show a correlation between the tight housing market in SF and the homeless population. The banner image in this study and your lead in is the assertion that 71% of homeless once had permanent residence in the City. So yes, my distrust with this figures comes against recent interviews posted on another blog and my long experience as a property owner and business operator in a district with large amounts of homeless.

        As a another reader pointed out below, they are not surprised that such a high number of homeless once had housing in SF, as between here and maybe LA there are very few places those truly on hard times (ex-felons/addicts/etc) can go to find housing that doesn’t require employment and references (SROs/supportive housing). Simply asking the question ‘have you had permanent housing in SF’ could very well produce this figure, but it could leave one to believe that the majority of homeless in the City once had an long time permanent housing and maybe steady job to go with it.

        Shacking up in an SRO with a buddy and fellow addict for a few months would surely meet this qualification of “once had a permanent residence” which could have little to do with why an individual is actually homeless or why and how they ended up here.

  20. Most of the homeless were living in District 6 (60+%) and along with District 10 accounted for more than 80% of the total. While Districts 4 and 7 had the fewest, less than 1% of the total combined. According to this survey.

    Ya see, you don’t have to move to Orinda or Blackhawk or some gated community to escape the homeless. Just move to the Sunset. And stay away from downtown and eastern waterfront hoods.

    1. Ironic, given how many of the city’s new residential units are going up in the downtown and eastern waterfront hoods. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next decade.

  21. I think living in the fog blasted stucco semi-suburban hellscape of much of the Sunset might be worse than having to deal with an occasional feral.

  22. I have lived here for 28 years. And there has been a homeless problem for all 28 years…as bad as now. This is not a recent problem due to affordability. Over $200 million dollars a year in spending, for 20 years, to “solve” it has done nothing other than entrench the problem and create a homeless bureacracy.

    I am so tired of the victimhood we place on everyone… taking away any sense of personal responsibility. The solution is when we stop seeing our current approach as “compassionate”. We need to offer help where we can, but demand that no one can sleep in tents or on the street. It is filthy, unsanitary for everyone!!

    And because I do not have a home for them to sleep in does not give anyone the right to sleep where they want. Move, go to an affordable city, get off drugs, stop making bad choices, etc. Get your damn act together, but I am tired of 30 years of the same victimization. It does no one any good.

      1. so we can spend a trillion dollars on useless wars and destroy entire stable nations and create a whole new profitable war on terra? Or waste billions on religious based charities? o GOP!

  23. Not that surprising when you consider that San Francisco is where the halfway houses and SROs are. So, no it doesn’t surprise me that people who showed up destitute or without realistic prospects managed to gain housing for a while.

  24. The larger issue is that our society has ZERO PLAN for dealing with homeless. Capitalism has winners and losers. In Europe they have a social safety net, in the third world they can live in slums and get by in the underground economy. Here, we just pretend the losers don’t exist, pass laws so that cops can harass them, and shuffle them from town to town so they become someone else’s problem for a while. We can do better.

  25. I simply don’t understand the “importance” of where the homeless acquired that status. Much more important are the how’s and why’s and what might effectively counteract them.

  26. According to the recent Chronicle article, SF has successfully housed ~20,000 individuals in the past 10 years and yet the numbers on the street haven’t budged. How is it possible that the numbers stay constant, unless there’s a constant influx of new homeless from elsewhere? It stretches the imagination to believe that the great majority are from San Francisco.

    1. The great majority of San Franciscans are not from SF. Most of us weren’t even born anywhere in California. It is not unusual for ~5k people to move into SF in a month, and for ~1k of them to be poor. SF isn’t isolated behind a TrumpWall. At least not until we can get San Mateo to pay for it.

  27. We have two problems in this City. People who are functional but homeless and people who are not functional and homeless.

    Why do we deal with it as one problem?

    1. I think you’ve underscored a core problem with this debate – as used by the SF government and this survey (and in a way which is technically correct, I’ll admit), “homeless” means “anyone without a home to call their own”, and so includes a lot of people in transitional housing and services. Whereas I think a lot of people on here (and, I admit, myself included) hear “homeless” and immediately, reflexively think of someone on a street corner or Muni bus covered with rags and reeking of excrement.

      So this survey is probably correct in discussing the homeless as defined in the first sentence — but a lot of people here find the survey results jarring because it’s hard to believe that 71% of dysfunctional people on the street are original to S.F. (or were once permanently / functionally living in S.F. before becoming a street person).

      I think the survey also seems at odd with our “Tales of the City” view of S.F., as a place where someone takes a bus here to start a new life. If that person spends a few months or even years renting a room, but then becomes homeless, do they count as having had a stable life but then became homeless (part of the 71%), or as someone who moved here because of our politics and policies?

    2. Sierrajef, this study distinguishes between sheltered and unsheltered homeless, following HUD’s definitions. From the Introduction to this study:

      “The San Francisco homeless count had two primary components: a Point-in-Time enumeration of unsheltered homeless individuals and families (those sleeping outdoors, on the street, in parks, in vehicles, etc.) and a Point-in-Time enumeration of homeless individuals and families who have temporary shelter (those staying in an emergency shelter, transitional housing, or using stabilization rooms).”

      This study found 58% were unsheltered, which was little different than previous estimates. FWIW, at least 85% were living in the SF Bay Area when they became homeless.

      The BobN, this study did not rate the functioning ability of individuals, but it does identify some of their problems. The manifold homeless programs in SF do deal with many different problems, not one. The faulty reduction to “one problem”, dear BobN, is not in our government, but in ourselves, that we are unwitting.

      1. Of course it’s in our government and our media and even this message board. And you can’t blame the message board or “dear” me. If the City would issue a report on “apparently crazy street people who defecate in the streets” (I’ll let them come up with a proper name or acronym) or, better yet, develop an effective policy for them, then we could talk about them separately from the rest. THEY are the ones that generate all the frustration/anxiety/disgust/hopelessness. Instead, the City and the defecator-enablers deflect every complaint about them with discussions about how many of “the homeless” are regular folks going through a rough patch.

        1. SF gov and ngos varied programs don’t treat everyone the same or as one undifferentiated “problem.” One of the purposes of this HUD mandated survey is to help fit these programs to the needs.

          But, sure, most people talk about it as an undifferentiated group or they fixate on either the best or worst of cases. If someone deflects your questions with a tired script, then call them on it until they either go Marco Robot or give you a pertinent answer. As long as you aren’t impertinent and are patient you should get past the facade, where for your concerns you will likely find some combo of don’t have the money and/or don’t have a clue/better idea.

          And we don’t have 2 problems, we in SF have 7000 or so… human beings. This study may not get to your specific categorization of them, but it surely does help us understand better who and how many they are.

      2. Yeah, I know, I can read – and I did look at the survey methodology. My point is a more esoteric one, which is that to the average person (reiterating: NOT as used in the survey), “homeless” means the filthy guy on the street, not the person trying to make a go of it in transitional housing. Which is (IMHO) one reason for the visceral debate here, because when people complain about “the homeless” I *don’t* think they have in mind the people in services.

    3. Long term homelessness often helps transform the former class into the latter, making the community impacts worse.

  28. People who can’t make ends meet should not be moving to the most expensive city in the country. These people will never be able to afford to live here without massive subsidies.

    1. Then who is going to clean your apartments or do the construction work or serve the sandwiches down at the corner deli? Not everyone can be a $250,000 per year (soon to be unemployed) Twitter engineer. And the oil prices will eventually jump once our bestest buddies in the Middle East (the glorious Saudi kingdom) bankrupt all of the other oil producers, so commuting from Manteca will be untenable also.

  29. I’d believe that 71% figure if the surveyors had followed up by contacting former landlords who would verify that “Oh, yes, Mr. ______ used to live in an apartment I had rented him at ______ Waller Street for a year, and he always paid his rent each month, but then fell on hard times and could no longer pay his rent. Sad case, really nice guy…..”

    Without that, homeless people surveyed can say whatever they want.

    1. that’s true of any survey, of any group of people. thankfully they didn’t survey one homeless person – they surveyed 1000.

  30. Let’s assume for a moment that these estimates are true and accurate for the population as a whole (though there are a ton of obvious sampling and response biases). That would mean that (.22+.17) x .29 x 7,000 = 771 homeless people are here from somewhere else either explicitly due to the social services or because they stopped migrating once they got here. That’s not a negligible number, and you can argue that these represent the most hard-core, the most “committed to being homeless” of the homeless. Also, what % of those who became homeless in SF is now homeless elsewhere? Do we see a similar emigration rate? My guess is that the most functioning of those who lose their housing in SF go elsewhere for new housing (at much lower cost) while the dysfunctional ones who are homeless for non-economic reasons stick around.

    The problem here is not economic homelessness, it’s that SF is a grease trap for all those who would be homeless anywhere. The stat about eviction rates is meaningless without knowing the eviction reason. Obviously the intent here is to imply that it’s due to rising rents or Ellis Acts, but in all likelihood the majority of these evictions is for criminal behavior.

    Yes, we need solutions. And yes, the magnitude of this problem is shameful and an embarrassment to our society. But concluding based on this data that it’s a “homegrown” SF problem and thus insinuating that it has a local solution is disingenuous.

    1. For about half of your “771 homeless people are here from somewhere else …” the somewhere else is the Bay Area.

      SF does “emigrate” about 800 homeless people a year via the oneway bus ticket know as Homeward Bound.

      I agree that this isn’t primarily a homegrown problem. It is a national one. USA has always had homeless, but it got yuge when we gutted federal housing and human service budgets and cleared out hundreds of thousands from horrible mental health facilities instead of replacing them with something decent. So of course there is an economic issue, an issue of how we allocate our public economy, and that is a moral issue as well.

  31. Word on the streets are that San Francisco will take care of you, and drugs are easily accessed on the streets, including great panhandling opportunities. So long as SF keeps offering these great services, more and more homeless folks will take the long trip to Norther Cali. Catch-22, indeed.

  32. Except there is no evidence we have “more and more homeless folks.” The 2015 count is about the same as the 2013 count and has declined as a percentage of population over the past decade. Since the methods have become better and more comprehensive the undercount should be going down. Most likely we have about the same or fewer homeless, not “more and more.” Word on the Intertubes is people make things up with zipo evidence. Maybe they have too may hallucinations from all the easy street drugs, maybe just can’t resist the great opportunities to pan for fool’s gold.

  33. Alcohol or Drug use #1 reason. Just anecdotal – my long exposure to the situation – no survey. A lot of people who have alcohol or drug problems are in denial about it. Don’t get me wrong – hard luck and bad health can also be causes – but I see alcohol and drug use as #1 causes of homelessness. And that is hard to fix.

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